When the big tsunami hit Japan in 2011, many objects were washed out to sea. This flotsam provided for a giant “rafting event.” A rafting event is when animals, plants, etc. float across an otherwise uncrossable body of water and end up alive on the other side. With this particular event, I don’t think very many terrestrial life forms crossed the Pacific, but a lot of littoral — shore dwelling and near shore — animals and plants did.
Even though the Pacific ocean is one big puddle and you would think that any organism anywhere in it could just go to any other part of the ocean, like in the movie Finding Nemo, that simply isn’t true, and many organisms, most, don’t migrate at all and don’t disperse that far.
This video gives an overview of the dispersal of Japanese marine life forms across the pacific.
One might assume that this sort of rafting event happens all the time, or at least, every century or so when there is a tsunami. Partly true. But the flotsam that flotsamized the Pacific this time around included a lot of stuff that did not, could not, rot, and had generally more chance of making it all the way before floating.
And, of course, this is all being studied by scientists because it is an amazing opportunity. From the abstract of a paper just out:
The 2011 East Japan earthquake generated a massive tsunami that launched an extraordinary transoceanic biological rafting event with no known historical precedent. We document 289 living Japanese coastal marine species from 16 phyla transported over 6 years on objects that traveled thousands of kilometers across the Pacific Ocean to the shores of North America and Hawai‘i. Most of this dispersal occurred on nonbiodegradable objects, resulting in the longest documented transoceanic survival and dispersal of coastal species by rafting. Expanding shoreline infrastructure has increased global sources of plastic materials available for biotic colonization and also interacts with climate change–induced storms of increasing severity to eject debris into the oceans. In turn, increased ocean rafting may intensify species invasions.
Carlton, James, et. al 2017. Tsunami-driven rafting: Transoceanic species dispersal and implications for marine biogeography. Science 357:6358(1402-2406)
Great disasters are great stories, great moments in time, great tests of technology, humanity, society, government, and luck. Fifty years ago it was probably true to say that our understanding of great disasters was thin, not well developed because of the relative infrequency of the events, and not very useful, not knowledge that we could use to reduce the risks from such events.
This is no longer true. The last several decades has seen climate science add more climatic data because of decades of careful instrumental data collection happening, but also, earlier decades have been added to understanding the long term trends. We can now track, in detail, global surface temperatures well back into the 19th century, and we have a very good idea of change over time, and variability in, global temperatures on a century level scale for centuries. There is a slightly less finely observed record covering hundreds of thousands of years and an increasingly refined vague idea of global surface temperature for the entire history of the planet.
This is true as well with earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis. Most of the larger versions of these events leave a mark. Sometimes that mark is an historical record that needs to be found, verified, critiqued for veracity, and eventually added to the mix. Sometimes the mark is geological, like when the coastline of the Pacific Northwest drops a few meters all at once, creating fossilized coastal wetlands that can be dated. Those events are associated with a particular kind of earthquake that happens on average every several hundred years, and now we have a multi-thousand year record of those events, allowing an estimate of major earthquake hazard in the region.
And so on.
The theory has also developed, and yes, there is a theory, or really several theories, related to disasters. For example, we distinguish between hazard (chance of a particular disaster happening at a certain level in a certain area) vs. risk (the probability of a particular bad thing happening to you as a results). If you live and work in Los Angeles, your earthquake hazard is high. You will experience earthquakes. But your risk of, say, getting killed in an earthquake is actually remarkably low considering how many there are. Why? Partly because really big ones are rare and fairly localized, and partly because you live in a house and work in a building and drive on roads that meet specifications set out to reduce risk in the case of an earthquake. Also, you “know” (supposedly) what to do if an earthquake happens. If, on the other hand, you live in an old building in San Francisco, you may still be at risk if the zoning laws have not caught up with the science. If you live near sea level in the Pacific Northwest, your earthquake hazard is really low, but if one of those giant earthquakes happens, you have bigly risk. Doomed, even.
Since my own research and academic interests have involved climate change, sea level rise, exploding volcanoes, mass death due to disease, and all that (catastrophes are the punctuation makrs of the long term archaeological and evolutionary record), I’ve always found books on disasters of interest. And now, I have a new one for you.
Man catastrophe books are written by science-interested or historically inclined writers, who are not scientists. The regurgitate the historical record of various disasters, giving you accounts of this or that volcano exploding, or this or that tsunami wiping out a coastal city, and so on. But the better books are written by scientist who are very directly, or nearly directly, engaged in the work of understanding, documenting, and addressing catastrophe.
Timothy H. Dixon is a professor in the School of Geosciences and Director of the Natural Hazards Network at the University of South Florida in Tampa. In his research, he uses satellite geodesy and remote sensing data to study earthquakes and volcanoes, coastal subsidence and flooding, ground water extraction, and glacier motion. He has worked as a commercial pilot and scientific diver, conducted research at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and was a professor at the University of Miami, where he co-founded the Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing (CSTARS). Dixon was a Distinguished Lecturer for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) in 2006–2007. He is also a fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the Geological Society of America (GSA), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He received a GSA Best Paper Award in 2006 and received GSA’s Woollard Award in 2010 for excellence in Geophysics.
This book covers risk theory, the basics of natural disasters, uncertainty, and vulnerability of humans. Dixon looks specifically at Fukushima and the more general problem of untoward geological events and nuclear power plants, and other aspects of tsunamis (including the Northwest Coast problem I mention above). He talks about energy and global warming; I found his discussion of what we generally call “clean energy” a bit outdates. He makes the point, correctly, that for various reasons the increase in price of fossil fuels that would ultimately drive, through market forces, the development of non-fossil fuel sources of electricity and motion is not going to happen for a very long time on its own. Environmentalists who assume there will be huge increase in fossil fuel costs any time now are almost certainly mistaken. However, Dixon significantly understates the rate at which solar, for example, is becoming economically viable. It is now cheaper to start up a solar electricity plant than it is to start any other kind of plant, and the per unit cost of solar is very low and rapidly declining.
Dixon is a bit of a free marketeer, which I am not, but a realistic one; He makes valid and important points about science communication, time lags and long term thinking, and he makes the case that more research can produce important technological advances.
Three years after the disaster at Fukushima, science correspondent Miles O’Brien returned to the Daiichi nuclear plant for an exclusive look at the site. Follow Miles on a never-before-seen tour of Daiichi’s sister site, Fukushima Daini, which narrowly avoided a meltdown during the Tohoku earthquake. As the country debates turning its reactors back on, Miles asks: will Japan have a nuclear future?
The new forecast track of Neoguri is shown above as well as the location of two nuclear power plants.
The forecast track has moved south, and is now in a very good (and here good means bad) position to strike the Sendai nuclear power plant very directly. Keep in mind that this forecast may change.
On Tuesday mid day UTC the storm will likely be in the later phases of a turn to the right, aiming roughly at the Sendai plant. At this point maximum wind speed near the center of the storm will likely be about 90 mph, which puts the storm in the middle of the Category One range. That evening, possibly near midnight, the center of the typhoon should be coming ashore. During this time the storm will weaken.
The exact track matters a lot. It is quit possible that the right front quadrant, near the eye, will come ashore very near the plant, which would mean a very severe storm tide. But, the strength of the storm will be attenuated so perhaps the storm tide will be reduced.
Even though the storm now seems to be more or less aiming at a shut-down nuclear power plant, I’m thinking this will all result in little more than a very wet nuclear power plant. If the storm was stronger I’d be more worried about the effects of storm surge. I think Japan will have other problems caused by this storm to worry about.
Yes and no. The question really has to be understood to refer to a “meaningful” hit, one that matters to the plant.
<li>Yes because Super Typhoon Neoguri (which means "raccoon" in Korean) is on its way to Japan and there is no way that at least two nuclear power plants, those facing the southwest in the vicinity where the Typhoon is likely to make its first major landfall, will not be affected by this storm because the storm is huge. It is going to hit everything. </li>
<li>No because it is possible Neoguri will not be a Category Five storm when it hits this part of Japan, it is more likely to be a Category Two storm by then.</li>
<li>Maybe, because the currently predicted path of Neoguri, as indicated on the graphic above, is highly uncertain at any level of detail at this time. It is quite possible that the right punch (right leading quadrant) of the storm, and thus the storm tide, will come ashore in a bad place. In this situation, the bad place would be at Sendai ... Genkai is probably more protected. But the storm could come assure in a lot of places, we just don't know yet.</li>
<li>No, because even if there is something of a direct hit, the Japanese nuclear authorities have ashore us that the plants, which are all shut down, are secured and can easily handle this.</li>
<li>Maybe yes because if you accept what the Japanese Nuclear Power authorities say at face value you are a moron. That should be obvious by now. </li>
In the end, though, I do think that nuclear power plants are generally well built and secured and I’m sure a big storm won’t bother them too much. But, even if shut down, as they are, cooling of fuel is still required and a major storm could do the kind of damage that interferes with that. So we’ll see. The chances, though, of a nuclear disaster related to this particular storm are minimal. The storm itself is the problem.
There is some great coverage on the storm here:
<li><a href="http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/07/07/3456862/typhoon-neoguri/">‘Once In Decades’ Typhoon Approaches Japan, Two Nuclear Power Plants</a></li>
<li><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/07/supertyphoon-neoguri-japan-nuclear-plants-fukushima">A Scary Super Typhoon Is Bearing Down on Japan…and Its Nuclear Plants</a></li>
On March 11th, 2011, a large earthquake caused a large tsunami in Japan, and the two historic events wrecked the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The power plant had six boiling water reactors of the kind used around the world in many nuclear power plants. Three of the six reactors suffered a meltdown, and containment structures meant to contain a meltdown were also breached. This is regarded as one of the worst nuclear disasters to ever happen, possibly the worst of all, though comparing major nuclear disasters to each other is hard for a number of reasons.
As you know if you are a regular reader of this blog, Ana Miller and I produced a number of updates no Fukushima, in which Ana’s studiously assembled list of sources was organized, assembled, and commented on. These “Fukushima Updates” together with a number of other posts on Fukushima can all be found HERE.
Yesterday I looked up how much the Fukushima disaster is likely to cost when the cleanup is all over. This is a very difficult number to estimate, but various sources put the cost at between 250 and 500 billion US dollars. For the present purposes, I’m going to assume that the actual cost will be at the higher end of the scale, and I’m going to take that money and do something else with it.
So, I’ve got 500 billion dollars and I want to spend it on non-carbon based non-nuclear energy production. What will that get me?
I’ve only done a few rough calculations, and I welcome you to correct or add or revise in the comments below. I am not an expert on this topic and I am easily confused. Please correct me in the comments but be nice about it I’m sensitive.
According to the good people at Blue Horizon Energy, which installs home solar panels and such, I can have a 625 square foot solar installation that would produce about 5000 W of power for about $20,000 dollars. Why would I want such a thing? Because I want to put it on the high school that is down the street from my house. Oh, I also want to put one on the middle school. And the strip mall where the grocery store is. I know this would be a bit more expensive, but I also want to put one or two over the parking lot at the strip mall, so cars underneath it would not get covered with snow but could hook up during the day to charge their batteries (for people with electric cars). And so on.
With the money to be spent ultimately on the Fukushima cleanup, I can install approximately 25 million of these things at current costs. I have a feeling, though, that I could get a discount. Also, if I was going to spend 500 billion buckaroos on solar, that itself would help drive down costs because costs of solar energy are dropping fast. I’m thinking I could probably squeeze 30 million units out of my budget.
There are about 100,000 public schools in the united states, a bit over that number if you count private schools. But I have 30 million units! There are about 30,000 towns and cities that probably have a city center, city hall, public works department, or some other building that a unit could go on. There are about 35,000 super markets. I’m going to make a guess and figure that if there are 30,000 supermarkets there must be at least 50,000 strip malls. There are probably several tens of thousands of parking structures, private or public. Imma guess 50,000 of those.
So far, then, we have over a quarter of a million places to put my solar panel arrays in a manner that would involve a reasonable level of management and negotiation, but we have 25 million arrays. OK, so maybe we’ll put more than one array on most of these structures. Maybe we can fit four on average, since some strip malls are large. Then we add big box stores that are not on strip malls. There’s almost 1,800 targets so there must be roughly the same number of Wall-marts. There are movie theaters and many other places with flat roofs where it would be fairly easy to install a big bunch of solar panels and still cover only part of the roof (fire departments do not like it when you cover the entire roof). And then, of course, there are farms. Lots and lots of farms with barns and other buildings on which a solar panel could be stores.
In the end, we can install 25,000,000 units that are worth 5000 Watts each. That is 125,000,000,000 W. I’m assuming that this is potential power and not realized capacity, which may be as low as 15%, but could be higher. Hell, let’s just say 20%. That’s 20 gW. Could that be right?
Putting it another way, we can install 16,250,000,000 square feet or 583 square miles of solar power.
Or maybe we should just use the money to build a smaller number of thermal solar installations like the IVANPAH project in California. There, they spent 2.2 billion dollars to develop solar power facilities that produce 392 MW (That’s a bit smaller than a single reactor of the type found at Fukushima). With 500 billion dollars, we could produce over 225 of these plants, which in turn would produce over 89,000 MW of power. That’s like building over 170 new nuclear reactors (distributed among a smaller number of plants, presumably). There are currently about 435 nuclear plants making energy around the world and in a few years that number will rise to about 500. Many of them have multiple reactors. Let’s assume for a moment that there are an average of four reactors per plant, so my 170 new reactors is equal to about 10% of the installed nuclear power base.
So, one way to look at it is this: The cost of Fukushima’s cleanup is equal to about 10% of the existing nuclear power industry’s energy production capacity. Looking it another way, we can retrofit every school district, municipality, parking garage, and farm with enough solar energy to make a big dent in their daily use of energy.
What would you do with the money?
Happy Anniversary Fukushima. Also, thank you Ana for all your work on the Fukushima feed.
TEPCO was going to start removing the fuel rods from the less-damaged reactor building Numnber 4 over the next few days. Today, it was announced that damage to the fuel rod assemblies, some or most of which predated the tsunami and earthquake, this could not be done. There is now uncertainty as to what is going to happen.
Here is a video by Fairewinds about this operation, which I believe was made before TEPCO decided to not continue with the removal at this time:
As you can see, there are several possible problems. Most of these problems are not related to the reasons TEPCO has given to halt the operation at this time; they are additional .
Fukushima Update #70: If you can’t measure it, you can’t analyze it.
by Analiese Miller and Greg Laden
It has been suggested, by various commenters on the internet, that the problem with Fukushima is not that there is a dangerous radioactive mess there, but rather, that the authorities in charge have decided that exposure to radiation is dangerous, when it really isn’t. The argument has been made that the evacuation of the region around Fukushima at the time of the meltdowns and explosions was unnecessary. This presumably also means that the exclusion zones, where people are not allowed to return to the present day, are safe and should be re-occupied by the former residents. To some extent, this must also mean that in many cases the workers at the plant are not really in danger of radiation, or at least most of them most of the time. This whole business of testing for radiation leaks, and monitoring exposure, and so on and so forth, should perhaps be reserved only for those who go inside the crippled reactor buildings, not those wandering around outside in some cases hundreds of meters from those buildings. This also means that expensive and bothersome monitoring of the presence or amount of radio-nucleotides in the groundwater and entering the nearby ocean is unnecessary. Clearly, then, by extension, testing of fish and other sea life being caught for human consumption is a waste of time, and certainly, keeping these fish off the market is also a waste of time.
Indeed, one gets the impression that TEPCO feels the same way, as one of the most interesting parts of this set of news stories and commentaries is the confusion and dispute over measurements of radiation. This extends beyond mere methodology and impinges as well on politics and public relations, what with the prospect of the Tokyo Olympics on the table and all.
Or, maybe that is all wrong and radiation is really very dangerous even in tiny quantities. There are those who say that radiation falling from the sky in North America, put into clouds by Fukushima, is a danger, or that fish that live along the US or Canadian coast will pick up radiation from the ocean put there by Fukushima and become dangerous. There are even reports from some sources that the sea offshore from Fukushima has been boiling. That certainly sounds unhealthy.
We think that both of the extreme views characterized above are probably wrong. The latter version of the dangers of Fukushima arise from a combination of fear, or at least, over-caution, and ignorance. The former view, the one that says that nothing is wrong at Fukushima, is not based on ignorance at all, we think, because it comes at least in part from people who tell us that they have studied radiation and nuclear things. But clearly, it is wrong. The evacuation at Fukushima was necessary. During the first few days of the disaster, the possibility of a much much worse release of radioactive material, brought by much less unfavorable winds than actually occurred to major population areas, was very real. Exposure to dangerous levels of radiation for people living near the plant almost certainly would have happened had they not left the area, and things could have turned out much worse than they did and no one could have known that at the time. Also, the idea that certain levels of radiation are safe because people have not in the past been made demonstrably sick form radiation releases is a limited way of thinking about the dangers. Fortunately, in very few instances are people exposed in large numbers to radiation levels like those involved at Fukushima. There are not nuclear disasters like this every day, and with respect to cleanup workers, the maximum levels of exposure is, probably, set conservatively. There is nothing wrong with being conservative about something dangerous even if it means less data to play with later.
The question this leaves us with is this: If the people worried about trout in Michigan are wrong because they don’t know what they are talking about, why are the people who are talking as though radiation is nearly always harmless wrong, when they should know better?
Getting back to the question of measurements for a moment. We note that the measurement of total body exposure in children is still not being done satisfactorily years after the event. We note that when new spikes in radiation or concentrations of a particular radio-isotope are noted, it is almost always impossible to be certain that the new measurement is a new event, or merely that someone thought to measure something. On numerous occasions, including recently, an apparent spike in some measurement occurred because a measurement device that had a maximum value that was too low was replaced with a proper measuring device that could handle higher numbers. That is not science, that is not proper attention to safety, that is not even good public relations. We assume that the best and the brightest around the world assemble around a disaster like this and that the thing is being handled as well as possible. If that is so, than expertise is clearly limited in the areas of nuclear energy and nuclear safety. They can’t even measure things. We have a saying in science. If you can’t measure it you’re borked. (Or words to that effect.) They can’t measure it.
Note in the feed below that some people are considering showing up to help. Maybe we don’t have the best and the brightest at Fukushima.
Also: Solutions. There seems to be a lack of them. For instance, the groundwater bypass flume, designed to move harmless groundwater around the plant rather than through it, to avoid it being contaminated on the way to the see seems like a great idea. The problem is, the groundwater that would be shunted around the plant seems to already be contaminated byu tritium. Is it contaminated by anything else? Who knows? They don’t know how to measure things!
UPDATE Since this is very current, it seems appropriate to toss it in this update rather than wait for later. Tropical Storm Man-Yi, which is just under typhoon (hurricane) strength with maximum winds at hurricane strength, is hitting Japan right now and it is predicted to affect the area around Fukushima. The storm will have gone over land for a period of time before arriving at Fukushima and may not be that strong. Having said that, Pacific Typhoons (or near typhoons) are not like the ones in the Atlantic, which many readers of this blog are more familiar with. They are often way, way larger and for a given rating are often more serious than equivalent Atlantic storm.
The storm will be going over Fukushima over the next several hours, and there is actually a live feed you can watch to see the action, here.
Fukushima Leaks Prompt Government to ‘Emergency Measures’ –Bloomberg; Aug. 26, 2013
Japan’s government will lead “emergency measures” to tackle radioactive water spills at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant, wresting control of the disaster recovery from the plant’s heavily criticized operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company.
“We’ve allowed Tokyo Electric to deal with the contaminated water situation on its own and they’ve essentially turned it into a game of ‘Whack-a-Mole,’” Trade Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters today at Fukushima. “From now on, the government will move to the forefront.”
Outside help offered to deal with Tepco debacle: U.S., French experts also ready; water woes escalate –Japan Times; Aug. 26, 2013
Russia repeated an offer first made two years ago to help Japan clean up its radiation-ravaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear station, welcoming Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s decision to seek outside help.
“In our globalized nuclear industry, we don’t have national accidents, they are all international,” Asmolov said. Since the Liberal Democratic Party took power in December and Shinzo Abe became the prime minister, talks on bilateral cooperation on the Fukushima cleanup have turned “positive” and Russia is ready to offer its assistance, he said from Moscow last week.
The idea of pumping water for cooling was never going to be anything but a “machine for generating radioactive water,” Asmolov said. Other more complex methods, such as the use of special absorbents like thermoxide to clean contaminated water and the introduction of air cooling, should be used, he said.
‘Mismanaged’ leaks to require reserve funds –Japan Times; Aug. 26, 2013
The government is considering using reserves from the fiscal 2013 budget to deal with the leaks of radioactive water at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday.
Suga said he has instructed industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi to pursue all possible measures to deal with the leaks, including the money.
More Fukushima evacuees to sue Tepco, government –Japan Times; Aug. 26, 2013
A group of 74 people representing 27 families will file the lawsuit with the Osaka District Court on Sept. 17, seeking around ¥15 million per head for psychological and other damage suffered from the event in Fukushima Prefecture, the lawyers said.
Similar suits have been filed in Hokkaido, Tokyo, and Yamagata, Chiba, Niigata and Aichi prefectures.
The group will argue that Tepco should have taken stronger measures to protect the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant from earthquakes and tsunami after the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion warned in 2002 that there was 20 percent chance of a magnitude 8 or so quake occurring in the Japan Trench in the Pacific Ocean within 30 years, the lawyers said.
RO Waste Water Leak at #Fukushima I Nuke Plant: TEPCO Says the Leak May Have Started A Month Ago after Examining Beta-Radiation Exposure of a Worker –EXSKF blog; Aug. 27, 2013
At Nuclear Regulatory Authority’s site, there is a TEPCO document that contains charts that plot beta radiation exposure of workers who do the tank patrol, and of the worker who worked at the radio relay station (English labels are by me):
The area where the relay station is located has been found with high beta radiation, up to 95.55 millisieverts/hour at 70-micrometer equivalent dose (to express the effect on skin and the crystalline lens (of the eye)).
Gov’t decides to put off target date for decontaminating area near Fukushima plant – Mainichi; Aug. 28, 2013
The government has decided to push back the target date for completing its decontamination work in seven of the 11 municipalities around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant from the end of fiscal 2013 to sometime after fiscal 2014.
Areas in the 11 municipalities near the crippled nuclear plant that were first designated as “evacuation zones” or “planned evacuation zones” in the wake of the outbreak of the nuclear crisis are subject to the decontamination work under the jurisdiction of the central government. The government has decided to push back the target date for the decontamination work in seven municipalities – Iitate, Katsurao, Kawamata, Minamisoma, Namie, Tomioka, and Futaba.
The government is supposed to ask Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the crippled nuclear power station, to pay the bills for decontamination. But as of the end of May, TEPCO had paid only 6.7 billion yen out of 21.2 billion yen the central government told the utility to pay. TEPCO has apparently been making decisions whether to pay the costs while strictly examining the effectiveness of the decontamination work. Therefore, the government apparently is hesitant to put pressure on TEPCO over decontamination projects that are not clearly deemed effective in reducing radiation levels. If TEPCO’s business conditions worsen, there is a possibility of the government shouldering the costs.
Water Management and Mismanagement at Fukushima –All Things Nuclear Blog; Aug. 29, 2013
Although the uncontrolled daily release of radioactivity into the environment represents a failure on the part of TEPCO to safely manage the Fukushima site, it does not yet pose a major public health threat comparable to the releases of radioactivity that occurred in the weeks following the accident, which were millions of times greater. The inability to safely contain the radioactivity at the site is first and foremost a threat to the workers who must report each day no matter how precarious the conditions. The contamination of more than ten workers in recent weeks, resulting in an expansion of areas where respiratory protection is required, has highlighted the dangers faced by personnel.
However, the situation is a stark reminder of how fragile things still are at Fukushima, which is especially alarming given the enormous quantity of radioactive material that still remains within the reactor cores and spent fuel pools. Things could rapidly get worse if, for example, additional wastewater tanks started to leak. And the potential for another earthquake that might cause soil liquefaction under the site, as reported by the Japan Times this week, raises the possibility of sudden and much larger releases. The international community should not be lured into a false sense of confidence during the periods when little news about Fukushima is being reported. The situation is dire and requires an urgent response.
Fishermen press TEPCO to end toxic water problem at Fukushima –Mainichi; Aug. 29, 2013
“Your company’s radioactive water management has failed,” the National Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations told TEPCO President Naomi Hirose after it summoned him to its office in Tokyo.
On Wednesday, the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations decided to suspend at the end of August so-called “trial” fisheries operations off the coast of Fukushima.
A trial operation limits the area of fishing and only allows shipment of products confirmed to be safe.
A fisheries cooperative covering the northern part of the prefecture has employed such an operation for more than a year, while another cooperative covering the southern part of the prefecture had planned to resume the operation from September.
Fukushima Fishermen Ruined by Tepco Now Key in Toxic Fight –Bloomberg; Aug. 30, 2013
Tokyo Electric Power Co. ruined the livelihoods of the commercial fishermen who trawled the seas off Fukushima prefecture when its leaking reactors poisoned the fishing grounds. The utility now needs their help.
Tokyo Electric has built wells and a pipeline on the hills behind the wrecked Fukushima atomic station to route groundwater into the ocean away from the plant. This will reduce the volume of water getting into reactor buildings, where it’s contaminated and then flows into the Pacific at a rate of 300 metric tons a day.
While the company has assured Fukushima fishing cooperatives the water to be piped from the hillside wouldn’t be contaminated, the fishermen have yet to sign off on the plan, citing the utility’s history of faked safety reports and cover ups. Talks with the 1,500 fishermen are now into their third month.
“We have yet to reach a conclusion” on whether the cooperative will agree to Tokyo Electric’s water bypass plan, Tetsu Nozaki, chairman of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations, said yesterday in Tokyo. “We will make a cool-headed decision.”
“The only thing we can do now is to explain this carefully,” Tepco President Naomi Hirose said in a briefing this week. “We are getting more understanding that the risk gets higher unless we solve the underground water issue.”
Fukushima radiation levels 18 times higher than previously thought –Guardian; Sept. 1, 2013
The high radiation levels announced on Sunday highlighted the dangers facing thousands of workers as they attempt to contain, treat and store water safely, while preventing fuel assemblies damaged in the accident from going back into meltdown.
Japan’s nuclear workers are allowed an annual accumulative radiation exposure of 50 millisieverts. Tepco said radiation of 230 millisieverts an hour had been measured at another tank, up from 70 millisieverts last month. A third storage tank was emitting 70 millisieverts an hour, Tepco said. Radiation near a pipe connecting two other tanks had been measured at 230 millisieverts.
Tepco admitted recently that only two workers had initially been assigned to check more than 1,000 storage tanks on the site. Neither of the workers carried dosimeters to measure their exposure to radiation, and some inspections had not been properly recorded.
Fukushima’s Radioactive Legacy is Just Beginning –Climate Central; Sept. 1, 2013
If anything, the future consequences of Fukushima for Japan are more serious than for the countries still suffering from the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident in Ukraine in 1986.
There the 30 km (18.6 mile) exclusion zone round the plant is still in force, and the ruined reactor has still not been made safe. The current international effort is aimed at placing a giant concrete shield over the reactor at a cost of around $1.5 billion. That work is not expected to be complete for another two years — until 30 years after the disaster.
The International Atomic Energy Agency team that looked at Fukushima and the problems of making the plant safe said in April that Japan may need longer than the projected 40 years to decommission the wrecked plants.
The crisis at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant “has not ended”, the country’s nuclear watchdog has warned, saying the situation there is “unstable”.
Watchdog chief Shunichi Tanaka also accused the plan’s operator of careless management during the crisis.
He added that it may not be possible to avoid dumping some contaminated water into the ocean.
Errors Cast Doubt on Japan’s Cleanup of Nuclear Accident Site –New York Times; Sept. 3, 2013
In this small farming town in the evacuation zone surrounding the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, small armies of workers in surgical masks and rubber gloves are busily scraping off radioactive topsoil in a desperate attempt to fulfill the central government’s vow one day to allow most of Japan’s 83,000 evacuees to return. Yet, every time it rains, more radioactive contamination cascades down the forested hillsides along the rugged coast.
As the environmental damage around the plant and in the ocean nearby continues to accumulate more than two years after the disaster, analysts are beginning to question whether the government and the plant’s operator, known as Tepco, have the expertise and ability to manage such a complex crisis.
In the past, they say, Tepco has resorted to technological quick fixes that have failed to control the crisis, further damaged Japan’s flagging credibility and only deflected hard decisions into the future. Some critics said the government’s new proposals offer just more of the same.
“Japan is clearly living in denial,” said Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a medical doctor who led Parliament’s independent investigation last year into the causes of the nuclear accident. “Water keeps building up inside the plant, and debris keeps piling up outside of it. This is all just one big shell game aimed at pushing off the problems until the future.”
“This is just a tactic to avoid taking responsibility,” said Harutoshi Funabashi, a sociologist at Hosei University who led a critical examination of the recovery efforts by the Science Council of Japan, a group of about 2,000 academics. “Admitting that no one can live near the plant for a generation would open the way for all sorts of probing questions and doubts.”
Mr. Funabashi and other critics say Japan should consider other options, including the tactic adopted by the former Soviet Union at Chernobyl of essentially capping the shattered reactors in concrete and declaring the most contaminated towns off limits for a generation.
Japanese officials said the large amounts of groundwater under the plant mean that just covering the reactors with concrete would fail to contain the spread of radiation. They also said giving up on a large portion of Fukushima was not an option in a densely populated country where land remains a scarce commodity.
But they also suggested that the reason for eschewing a Soviet-style option may be the fear that failure could turn a wary public even more decisively against Japan’s nuclear industry.
Abe steps in to tackle nuclear water crisis –Japan Times; Sept. 3, 2013
After putting off spending taxpayer money as long as it could, the Abe administration announced Tuesday it will earmark at least ¥47 billion to stop contaminated water from leaking at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The government will finish setting up coolant equipment to create a barrier of frozen soil around the plant by the end of March 2015, not by the end of September 2015 as envisioned in an earlier plan, officials said.
Of the earmarked funds, ¥32 billion will be used to create the facilities to freeze the soil, and another ¥15 billion to develop more powerful filtering equipment to remove radioactive materials from the contaminated water.
The Abe Cabinet finally decided to step in after it recently become clear that hundreds of tons of contaminated groundwater has been flowing into the sea, drawing strong attention and criticism both at home and abroad.
Still, at least for the time being, Tepco will have to handle the water problem on its own, as the government will spend money only for projects that involve “great technological challenges.”
Three people on Tuesday filed a criminal complaint against Tokyo Electric Power Co. and 32 of its current and former executives with the Fukushima prefectural police, arguing they neglected to take measures to prevent toxic water at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant from flowing into the ocean.
Among the three is Ruiko Muto, who heads a group of some 14,000 people who have filed a criminal complaint with prosecutors against the utility, its executives and government officials over their responsibility for causing the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In the latest complaint, the three said the failure of Tokyo Electric and its executives, including current president Naomi Hirose, to take appropriate measures has caused the daily outflow of 300–400 tons of radioactive-contaminated water into the Pacific.
The Road Ahead: Infant Checks in Fukushima –NHK Newsline Feature; Sept. 4, 2013 (VIDEO)
Hospital officials say they lack the resources to conduct accurate radiation checks of infants in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster. Now scientists and industrial designers are developing a machine that could offer much greater precision.
Record radiation readings near Fukushima contaminated water tanks –Reuters; Sept. 4, 2013
Readings just above the ground near a set of tanks at the plant showed radiation as high as 2,200 millisieverts (mSv), the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said on Wednesday. The previous high in areas holding the tanks was the 1,800 mSv recorded on Saturday.
“There’s a strong possibility these tanks also leaked, or had leaked previously,” said Hiroaki Koide, Assistant Professor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute. “We have to worry about the impact on nearby groundwater…These tanks are not sturdy and have been a problem since they were constructed two years ago.”
It’s also possible the radiation readings are increasing because of more frequent monitoring and inspections by Tepco employees, indicating the hotspots and leaks have been there for some time, Koide said.
“The government has finally said they will be involved in this problem but they are still not going to be fully involved in the decommission,” he said. “It is too little, too late.”
Of about 200 kilograms of octopus caught in Fukushima waters and stocked in early August, half have been left unsold.
According to the Soma-Futaba fishing cooperative association, octopus caught during the trial fishing period had been shipped to Tokyo and Nagoya. But wholesalers in Nagoya stopped accepting the octopus in late July, a week after TEPCO announced a leak of radioactive water.
Hiroyuki Sato, who heads the association, has also felt frustrated.
“Products we monitored and found to be safe have been given the cold shoulder (by our customers),” Sato, 57, said. “We have done many things until now, but we are right back where we started.”
Fukushima tank leak may have mixed with groundwater, Tepco reckons –Japan Times; Sept. 5, 2013
Tepco said Thursday that workers had detected radiation of 650 becquerels per liter in samples from a monitoring well dug near the damaged tank.
“There is the possibility that the contaminated water (from the tank), diluted by rainwater … has seeped into soil and reached groundwater,” Tepco said in a press release.
The groundwater from the surrounding mountains naturally flows beneath the plant toward the sea.
RO Waste Water Leak at #Fukushima: 2,200 mSv/Hr to 30 mSv/Hr Beta After Shielding Experiment –EXSKF blog; Sept. 5, 2013
The images don’t give you much confidence and may make you fear for the safety of workers from beta radiation exposure on skin who would be asked to perform this task on potentially over 350 huge tanks.
But the beta radiation (measured at 5 centimeter and expressed in 70 micrometer dose equivalent) did go down.
Apply sealing material (which looks like putty) to the flange.
Place one to three acrylic sheets (15 x 10 x 1 centimeter).
Place two layers of rubber sheets (1.5m x 1m x 3mm) on the concrete (and put sand bags to hold them down).
Regulator raps Fukushima operator over “unreliable” data –Reuters; Sept. 5, 2013
Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) , the operator of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, is still putting out questionable data on radiation leaks, causing confusion and a heightened sense of crisis, Japan’s nuclear regulator said.
The stakes have been raised as Japan makes a final pitch for Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympic Games, while a steady stream of bad news from Fukushima, the site of the worst atomic disaster in a quarter of a century, leaves officials frustrated by Tepco’s missteps and miscalculations.
“As I’ve said before, Tokyo Electric has not been properly disclosing the situation about the contamination and the levels of contamination,” Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), told reporters on Thursday.
“This has caused confusion domestically and internationally. Because of that, the Japanese government has a sense of crisis and I, personally, feel a little angry about it,” he said.
The company’s disclosure of problems at the site and the quality of its data have been a source of constant criticism.
“I have a certain expert knowledge of Tepco’s data and their data is not reliable,” Kayoko Nakamura, one of five NRA commissioners, said at Thursday’s briefing.
Leaked toxic water at Fukushima plant may have mixed with groundwater –Mainichi; Sept. 6, 2013
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Thursday it has detected 650 becquerels per liter of radioactive substances from groundwater near a leaky water storage tank at its crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The detection of radioactive substances emitting strontium and other beta rays shows the possibility that toxic water from the tank may have reached the groundwater, the plant operator known as TEPCO said. About 300 tons of highly toxic water had leaked from the tank.
The utility said it collected the groundwater Wednesday at a well dug more than a dozen meters south of the tank in the H4 area where the radioactive water had leaked.
The government plans to use wells to pump up groundwater before it flows into reactor buildings for discharge into the sea in a bid to reduce about 400 tons of groundwater now seeping into reactor buildings every day. The construction of an ice wall is also planned to block off groundwater flow.
With the latest detection of radioactive substances, however, the water in some of the wells is feared to be contaminated.
Seoul bans fish imports from eight prefectures –Japan Times; Sept. 6, 2013
According to officials, all fishery products from radiation-affected regions in Japan will be banned from entering South Korea regardless of the levels of contamination. The ban covers products from Fukushima, Aomori, Ibaraki, Gunma, Miyagi, Iwate, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures.
“The measure comes as our people’s concerns are growing over the fact that hundreds of tons of radiation contaminated water are leaked daily from the site of Japan’s nuclear accident in Fukushima,” the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said in a press release, according to Yonhap news agency.
Tokyo responded Friday by saying Japan has stringent food safety standards based on international rules and regularly checks radiation levels. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga urged Seoul to “take actions based on scientific grounds,” stressing Japan is “strictly controlling safety” of fishery products based on international radiation standards.
The South Korean government said it will request additional radiation tests from Japan, if “even a minuscule dose of radioactive material, such as cesium or iodine, is detected in any products from any other region of Japan,” Yonhap reported.
The government also decided to lower the allowed dose of radiation in fisheries products from the current 370 becquerels per kilogram to 100 Bq/kg.
South Korea bans fish imports from Japan’s Fukushima region –Guardian; Sept. 6, 2013
With the IOC decision imminent, Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of Japan’s nuclear regulation authority, criticised Tepco for inflating fears around the world by releasing misleading data about the water leaks.
Earlier this week, the utility said it had detected measured radiation of 2,200 millisieverts an hour at a hotspot near a water tank. Tanaka said the measurement was misleading, and had prompted alarmist reports in the domestic and international media.
“What Tepco is talking about is the level of contamination,” he said, “So to describe it with the unit ‘millisieverts per hour’ is scientifically unacceptable. It’s like describing how much something weighs by using centimetres.”
He said Tepco should have used the unit becquerel, which signifies the radioactivity levels in the water itself rather than the potential human exposure levels. “I have come to think they need to be spoon fed,” Tanaka said of Tepco. “It is regrettable that Tepco has caused confusion and fear in the international community by spreading misleading information.”
The 2,200-millisievert an hour reading, confirmed by Tepco, is accurate, however. The firm has been at pains to point out that most of the radiation was emitted as beta rays – as opposed to far more dangerous gamma rays – which travel only short distances and are easily blocked by protective clothing.
Tepco to fit No. 1 plant water tanks with level gauges –Japan Times; Sept. 7, 2013
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it will install water level gauges on all flange-type tanks storing radioactive coolant at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant by the end of November, to enhance monitoring.
The new gauges can remotely monitor the levels of water in the tanks nonstop and sound an alarm if a decrease is detected, Tepco said.
Currently, only 55 flange-type tanks out of 337 are equipped with gauges. The existing devices differ from the ones that will be installed and cannot be remotely monitored.
RO Waste Water Leak at #Fukushima: TEPCO’s Video of Tank Patrol by Workers –EXSKF blog; Sept. 8, 2013
Three workers are doing the patrol of the tank area to spot the leaks. These are the assembled tanks as opposed to welded, held together by rivets and packing (whose effective life is about 5 hours, and that doesn’t assume radiation).
Workers are to examine the tanks and any water puddles closely, and measure the radiation. The area looks huge, and there is no way to distinguish the actual leak from the rainwater puddle until and unless they actually measure the radiation.
By the way, there is a job listing posted on September 3, 2013 at the government job agency “Hellowork” in Fukushima Prefecture to recruit workers to do the tank patrol at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. The listing was posted by one of the subcontractors (of the subcontractors, most likely).
Wages: 10,000 to 14,000 yen [100 to 140 dollars] per day
Details of work: to monitor tanks that store contaminated water at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. You will patrol the compound with survey meter with another worker, and visually inspect the tanks and write reports. One round takes about 30 to 40 minutes, and you are expected to do 4 to 6 rounds of patrol per one shift. The work will be intermittent, and the effective hours of work per day will be about three hours. When you are not doing the patrol, you will wait in the room that is shielded from radiation inside the plant. Trial workers are also wanted.
Required education: none
Required work experience, license, certificate: none
Fukushima leaks contaminate more groundwater –NHK; Sept. 9, 2013
TEPCO says it detected 3,200 becquerels of strontium and other radioactive substances per liter of water collected on Sunday from a new well. The well is about 20 meters north of the tank that leaked.
The reading was 5 times higher than in a sample taken from another well, to the south of the tank, last Wednesday.
TEPCO is planning to dig more wells to try to find out how the underground water is being contaminated.
In another development, TEPCO officials said they detected 80,000 becquerels of tritium per liter in a sample collected last Thursday from a well on the coastal side of the No.1 reactor building. The well has been there from before the nuclear accident.
72% criticize government’s response to Fukushima radioactive water leak issue –Asahi Shimbun; Sept. 9, 2013
For the survey, The Asahi Shimbun contacted 3,496 voters by telephone on Sept. 7–8. There were 1,925 valid responses, accounting for 55 percent of the total.
The respondents were also asked whether they feel the government should take the lead in tackling this growing problem, and 89 percent answered “yes.”
When asked to pick one option among four in regard to the gravity of the problem, 95 percent of respondents answered it is “serious.” Of that number, 72 percent said “very much” and 23 percent said “to some degree.”
Stress-induced deaths in Fukushima top those from 2011 natural disasters –Mainichi; Sept. 9, 2013
The number of deaths in Fukushima Prefecture caused mainly by stress from the nuclear disaster reached 1,539 at the end of August, almost equaling the 1,599 fatalities due directly to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.
In addition, bereaved families have filed condolence money applications for at least 109 victims who they say died due to fatigue, stress and aggravated health conditions while living in evacuation shelters and temporary housing. If this number is added, deaths attributable to post-disaster conditions surpass the number of those killed directly by the March 11, 2011 quake and tsunami.
There have been cases of Fukushima residents whose health conditions worsened due to extended periods living as evacuees, as well as those who were driven to suicide.
Fukushima evacuation has killed more than earthquake and tsunami, survey says –NBC NEWS; Sept. 9, 2013
Francis Markus, East Asia spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said the conditions faced by those displaced is made worse by them not knowing when they can return.
“What we are seeing is some very, very difficult social and emotional effects that communities are having to cope with,” he said Tuesday. “A lot of the people suffering are the older generation, and they need a lot of support to make it through with as little ill effect as possible. It’s a very serious and painful existence.”
Markus has visited many of the evacuees as part of the IFRC relief efforts in the region.
“You drive into the settlements and find they are very neat and tidy,” he said.
“There is a car park, and then there is rows upon rows of these very neat but very small prefabricated houses, each with a family trying to make them as homely as possible. In the summer they are very hot and in the winter they are very chilly.
“People from the worst affected areas are really very concerned as to when they will be able to go back, if they will be able to go back at all.”
Japan: No Indictments Over Fukushima Accident –New York Times; Sept. 9, 2013
Japanese prosecutors have decided not to indict former officials of Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of the tsunami-stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima, over their roles in the accident there in March 2011, Japan’s public broadcaster reported Monday. Naoto Kan, who was prime minister at the time of the accident, will also not be prosecuted over his inability to prevent the multiple meltdowns and explosions that hit the plant’s reactors, driving 100,000 people from their homes, according to the broadcaster, NHK. Prosecutors said that their decision was based on data provided on a voluntary basis, and on the opinions of experts, who suggested that the scale of the earthquake and tsunami that triggered the accident could not have been predicted. That finding, however, has been contradicted in various studies, including an influential parliamentary report that called the accident a “manmade disaster.”
A group of Fukushima residents who had sought indictments told NHK that prosecutors “had failed to respond to the voice of local residents."
A man in his 70s says prosecutors have never done on-site inspections and do not understand how evacuees are feeling. He says he cannot understand why no one is indicted for such a serious accident, and that prosecutors should determine who is to blame.
Another man, also in his 70s, urges prosecutors to not only investigate people who dealt with the accident but also politicians who approved the construction of the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
A woman in her 60s says many people are still living in temporary housing 2 and half years after the accident.
Leak from Fukushima tank contaminating groundwater –Asahi Shimbun; Sept. 10, 2013
Tokyo Electric Power Co. has discovered radioactive materials from groundwater at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. It is the second such instance, which suggests contaminated water that leaked from a storage tank is spreading underground.
The utility said Sept. 9 that 3,200 becquerels of radioactive materials, such as strontium, were detected per liter of water taken from an observation well the previous day.
The well is located 20 meters north of the storage tank from which the company said on Aug. 20 that an estimated 300 tons of highly radioactive water leaked.
Fukushima victims incensed at decision not to prosecute TEPCO, government officials –Japan Daily Press; Sept. 10, 2013
One of the affected residents who took up the cause for the officials to be held responsible was Kazuya Tarukawa, 38, a farmer in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture. He said, “It is very heartbreaking if the decision not to indict leads to the erasing of the calls made by disaster victims to pursue responsibility for the accident.” Reiko Hachisuka, 61, a Fukushima resident who now lives in temporary housing in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, expressed her disgust at the decision. “I want to shout, ‘Why is no one being held responsible?’” Hachisuka says that she only feels frustration at the fact that no one seems to want to take responsibility for the disaster. “Even if responsible individuals were pursued, the nature of the utility TEPCO would not change,” she said. “I am very saddened because no one has stepped forward and said, ‘I am the person responsible.’”
“We wanted to seize it as an opportunity to change the status quo. It is truly regrettable,” said Toru Takeda, 72, who is still taking shelter in Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture, after evacuating from Fukushima city.
“The responsibility for an accident of that magnitude should not be kept ambiguous. I wonder how they think the world sees them,” Takeda said while drooping his shoulders in disappointment.
Hiroyuki Inamoto, 52, who still is taking shelter in Tokyo’s Koto Ward after evacuating from Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, said, “Non-prosecution. That’s something like ‘I thought so.’ Even if we hold them accountable for what happened in the past, our lives will not change. I want the government to think about what should be done for us in the future, such as places for us to live and reconstruction of our hometowns.”
Kan, who was prime minister when the nuclear accident broke out, said in a statement, “I spearheaded the work to prevent the accident from expanding and to mitigate damage. I see non-prosecution as a natural outcome.”
Resisting with a Purpose –NHK Newsline Feature; Sept. 10, 2013 (VIDEO)
Two and a half years on from the nuclear accident in Fukushima, one local farmer is refusing to abandon his cattle despite a government evacuation order. And the cows are providing a unique opportunity to study the effects of radiation.
Abe’s assurance over Fukushima radioactive water comes under question –Mainichi; Sept. 10, 2013
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s assurance that the situation surrounding the radioactively contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is “under control” during Tokyo’s final presentation for the 2020 Olympics have come under question, prompting plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to send an inquiry to the government.
Abe stated in his presentation at the International Olympic Committee meeting in Buenos Aires on Sept. 7, “Some may have concerns about Fukushima. Let me assure you, the situation is under control. It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo.” He also said the effect of the water leak has been “completely blocked” within an area of 0.3 square kilometers in the waters from the plant.
“His remarks don’t convey the facts accurately,” said one observer in criticism of the prime minister’s statement.
“It is hard to tell what can be called as being ‘under control,’ but it is certain that you can’t say the contaminated water has ‘been completely blocked’ in a technical sense,” said a senior official with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Abe’s assurance to IOC on nuclear plant called into question –Japan Times; Sept. 10, 2013
Experts have long pointed out that irradiated water from the plant has kept gushing into the Pacific far beyond the man-made bay, although the government continues to claim that most radioactive materials have been contained within a silt fence that forms a barrier directly in front of reactor units 1 through 4. Reactors 1, 2 and 3 suffered core meltdowns in March 2011.
The silt fence was deliberately set up with many openings so it can withstand waves and tidal movements.
When disclosing the results of a simulation last month, Tokyo Electric Power Co. admitted that a lot of water — and probably radioactive materials — was penetrating the fence and pouring into the wider ocean. The simulation assumed that 50 percent of the water inside the fence becomes mixed with seawater daily due to tides and other factors.
Tepco, based on the findings, concluded that a maximum of 10 trillion becquerels of radioactive strontium–90 and a further 20 trillion becquerels of cesium–137 may have reached the ocean.
The operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant said levels of tritium – considered one of the least harmful radioactive elements – spiked more than 15 times in groundwater near a leaked tank at the facility over three days this week.
Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) said tritium levels in water taken from a well close to a number of storage tanks holding irradiated water rose to 64,000 becquerels per liter on Tuesday from 4,200 becquerels/liter at the same location on Sunday.
The spike in radioactive elements in groundwater near the tanks threatens to scuttle Tepco’s plans to build a bypass to route groundwater away from the plant and release it into the Pacific Ocean. The tank that leaked is in an area around 130 meters above the proposed bypass.
Tepco Vice President Zengo Aizawa stressed the importance of the bypass on Wednesday, saying the company will continue to try and win support from local fishermen – who oppose the release of contaminated water into the sea- for the bypass. link
Japan ponders Fukushima options, but Tepco too big to fail –Reuters; Sept. 11, 2013
A crisis over radiation-contaminated water at the plant has revived calls to put Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) into bankruptcy as a prelude to nationalising the clean-up and shut-down of the reactors, but there is little political support for the idea given its potential fallout for financial markets, Tepco’s creditors and other nuclear utilities.
With concerns over Tepco’s ability to cope, policymakers are pondering ways to take the Fukushima shut-down off the utility’s hands, perhaps through an agency along the lines of Britain’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Even that, though, faces hurdles, including the likely need for new legislation, clarity on the size of the bill for taxpayers and government liability, and working out the implications for Japan’s other utilities.
That means, at least for now, the government may just end up pouring in more money, leaving Tepco in charge while stepping up official oversight.
Under the scheme crafted to keep Tepco afloat after the 2011 disaster, the company is liable for compensation, decontamination of affected areas and decommissioning the reactors. It is supposed to use electricity revenues to pay for decommissioning, while, for compensation and decontamination, it can borrow up to 5 trillion yen from the state-backed Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Corporation.
With cost estimates for compensation and decontamination at least double the 5 trillion yen credit line, and projections of the cost of decommissioning starting at 1 trillion yen, critics have long said Japanese citizens would end up paying the bill.
But putting Tepco into bankruptcy would make that inconvenient truth all too clear.
Over the last several weeks we’ve heard repeated, alarming, and generally worsening, news from Fukushima Diachi, the Japanese nuclear power plant that suffered a series of disasters that make The China Syndrome look like a Disney family movie. One question is this: Has a new set of problems (new leaks, apparently the fifth such “unexpected” leak) occurred that is really significant, or is this level of spewing of radioactive waste from the plant pretty much run of the mill but somehow the press only now noticed something TEPCO has been avoiding talking about, or is this part of an ongoing contamination event that began when the plant suffered several explosions and meltdowns but that TEPCO somehow has missed? Or some combination of those things?
The news as complied here has a couple of themes other than the information about the leak (or leaks). For one thing, any suspicion that TEPCO or anyone else in charge of the Fukushima disaster mitigation could ever utter an honest word has essentially vanished. No one believes TEPCO. TEPCO could say the sky is blue and people would assume it must not be. Second, there is little belief on the part of actual experts that TEPCO is competent. Third, and a bit more subtle, this distrust in TEPCO and this understanding that TEPCO has no clue as to how to handle the sort of disaster that many people have been saying for 40 years would ultimately occur is manifest outside of Fukushima and outside of Japan to a significant degree. No matter how much we might need nuclear power as part of the mix to save our planet from the effects of climate change, it is unlikely that newer, safer technologies would ever be developed because as a species we’ve more or less stopped trusting the power industry in general and the nuclear power industry in particular to be honest brokers, and to a somewhat lesser but still significant extent, competent. We also may be resenting the degree to which the traditional (including nuclear) industry has bought our political system.
Anyway, welcome to the 69th installment of our irregular update on the situation at Fukushima Diachi Nuclear Power Plant. The other updates are here.
Before getting on to the news summaries, here’s a question for you: Why do so many journalists refer to the plant at the “Crippled Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant”? Crippled? That would be like calling the dead raccoon you’ve driven by six times this week a “Crippled Carnivore”. Crippled is just not the word for what Fukushima is.
And now, on to the news…
9,640 Fukushima plant workers reach radiation level for leukemia compensation – The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 5, 2013
Nearly 10,000 people who worked at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant are eligible for workers’ compensation if they develop leukemia, but few are aware of this and other cancer redress programs.
According to figures compiled by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. in July, 9,640 people who worked at the plant between March 11, 2011, when the nuclear accident started, and Dec. 31 that year were exposed to 5 millisieverts or more of radiation.
Workers can receive compensation if they are exposed to 5 millisieverts or more per year and develop leukemia one year after they began working at the plant.
TEPCO figures showed that 19,592 people worked at the Fukushima No. 1 plant during the nine-month period and were exposed to 12.18 millisieverts on average.
Fukushima Reinforces Worst Fears for Japanese Who Are Anti-Nuclear Power – PBS NewsHour, Aug. 8, 2013
How are the Japanese people reacting to the news of the continuing contamination leak and what does it mean for Japan’s energy policy? Jeffrey Brown talks with Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and Kenji Kushida of Stanford University about what the government may do to stop the flow.
After disaster, the deadliest part of Japan’s nuclear clean-up – Reuters, Aug. 14, 2013
The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is preparing to remove 400 tons of highly irradiated spent fuel from a damaged reactor building, a dangerous operation that has never been attempted before on this scale.
Containing radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released in the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima 68 years ago, more than 1,300 used fuel rod assemblies packed tightly together need to be removed from a building that is vulnerable to collapse, should another large earthquake hit the area.
No one knows how bad it can get, but independent consultants Mycle Schneider and Antony Froggatt said recently in their World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013: “Full release from the Unit–4 spent fuel pool, without any containment or control, could cause by far the most serious radiological disaster to date.”
When asked what was the worst possible scenario, Tepco is planning for, Nagai said: “We are now considering risks and countermeasures.”
Nagasaki Bomb Maker Offers Lessons for Fukushima Cleanup – Bloomberg, Aug. 15, 2013
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) has sent engineers on visits to the Hanford site in Washington state this year to learn from decades of work treating millions of gallons of radioactive waste. Hanford also has a method to seal off reactors known as concrete cocooning that could reduce the 11 trillion yen ($112 billion) estimated cost for cleaning up Fukushima.
Hanford stretches over 586 square miles of scrubland southeast of Seattle where thousands of technicians are decommissioning the nine reactors in operation from 1944 to 1987. Its laboratories and plutonium facilities were integral to the Manhattan Project to make the first atomic bomb.
Hanford has its own share of containment challenges. Six underground tanks leaking radioactive waste may offer lessons to Tepco in dealing with substances that contaminate everything they come in contact with. The tanks are among 177 buried at Hanford, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) southeast of Seattle along the Columbia River.
The U.S. Department of Energy has spent more than $16 billion since 1989 to clean up Hanford. The weapons production generated 56 million gallons of radioactive waste, enough to fill a vessel the size of a football field to a depth of 150 feet, according to a December report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
Tepco is talking with the DOE on whether cocooning could work for the crippled reactors in Fukushima. Sealing them off in concrete for 75 years would allow more focus on cleaning up surrounding areas so that residents could return, said Ishikawa.
TEPCO is preparing to build the world’s largest underground ice wall – Mining.com, Aug. 19, 2013
After admitting that between 300 to 600 tons of coolant water is leaking into the Pacific Ocean every day, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has decided to surround the crippled nuclear power plant with a 1.4 km long ice wall that will cost between $300-$410 million.
According to Engineering.com, sink pipes with constantly cycling coolant will surround reactors 1 through 4. Estimated time to completion is one to two years.
Ground freezing is used in mining. Cameco used freezing on its Cigar Lake mine to contain underground water, but nothing has ever been built on this scale. If completed the Fukushima artificial ice wall would be the world’s largest.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the leaks an “urgent problem.”
The expensive ice wall will be a drop in the bucket compared to what Japanese taxpayers have already spent. To date the cost of cleaning up the Fukushima nuclear disaster is US$112 billion.
The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant said on Monday two workers were found to be contaminated with radioactive particles, the second such incident in a week involving staff outside the site’s main operations centre. -Reuters, Aug. 19, 2013
Two workers waiting for a bus at the end of their shift were found to be have been contaminated with radioactive particles, which were wiped off their bodies before they left the site, Tokyo Electric, also known as Tepco, said. Full body checks of the staff members showed no internal contamination.
The utility said it could not be sure the alarms were connected with the discovery of the contamination of the workers. The incident is being investiged.
Last week, the same monitors sounded alarms and 10 workers waiting for a bus were found to have been contaminated with particles. Tepco said it suspected they came from a mist sprayer used to cool staff down during the current hot summer.
The mist sprayer has been turned off since last week.
Radiation levels in Fukushima bay highest since measurements began – RT, Aug. 20, 2013
Readings of tritium in seawater taken from the bay near the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has shown 4700 becquerels per liter, a TEPCO report stated, according to Nikkei newspaper. It marks the highest tritium level in the measurement history.
TEPCO said the highest radiation level was detected near reactor 1. Previous measurements showed tritium levels at 3800 becquerels per liter near reactor 1, and 2600 becquerels per liter near reactor 2. The concentration of tritium in the harbor’s seawater has been continuously rising since May, according to Nikkei.
Fukushima’s Invisible Crisis: Don’t expect coverage of Japan’s nuclear power disaster on the evening news: unlike other environmental catastrophes, Fukushima’s ongoing crisis offers little to film. – The Nation, Aug. 19, 2013
More than two years after the cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami, the Fukushima plant is still in crisis. TEPCO still has no sufficient explanation for when the leaks began or why it waited until after the election to reveal them. Its assurances that the contamination is staying within the seawalls of the harbor are less convincing after weeks of assurances that there was no leak at all. The government has estimated that at least 300 tons of contaminated water are being released per day. TEPCO officials would not confirm the estimate.
This disclosure is only the latest in a series of well-documented problems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant: a power outage, the release of radioactive steam and the limited space to store the contaminated water (320,000 tons to date, with plans to build more tanks to hold up to 700,000 tons of radioactive water by 2015).
Dale Klein, a former head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission invited to serve on TEPCO’s outside advisory committee, reacted to the latest revelation by excoriating the company’s executives: “These actions indicate that you don’t know what you are doing, and that you do not have a plan, and that you are not doing all you can to protect the environment and the people.” The editorial board of the major daily Asahi Shimbun declared it had “zero faith” in the “incompetent” utility, adding that “allowing the company to handle nuclear energy is simply out of the question.”
Cordoned off inside the forbidden zone, the leaking plant has come to be a source of embarrassment and anxiety that is too easily ignored. Unlike other environmental catastrophes like BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Fukushima crisis offers little to film, and thus nothing much to lead with on the evening news, aside from pictures of press conferences and the grim face of TEPCO president Naomi Hirose, bowing in yet another apology. The coverage, despite the alarming numbers, seems to suggest there’s nothing to see here. And so the story, when it gets reported, rarely gets the attention it deserves.
Tank Has Leaked Tons of Contaminated Water at Japan Nuclear Site – New York Times, Aug. 20, 2013
Workers raced to place sandbags around the leaking tank to stem the spread of the water, contaminated by levels of radioactive cesium and strontium many hundreds of times as high as legal safety limits, according to the operator, Tokyo Electric Power, or Tepco. The task was made more urgent by a forecast of heavy rain for the region.
The new leak raises disturbing questions about the durability of the nearly 1,000 huge tanks Tepco has installed about 500 yards from the site’s shoreline. The tanks are meant to store the vast amounts of contaminated liquid created as workers cool the complex’s three damaged reactors by pumping water into their cores, along with groundwater recovered after it poured into the reactors’ breached basements.
Tepco yet to track groundwater paths: Liquefaction threat adds to Fukushima ills – Japan Times, Aug. 20, 2013
About 1,000 tons of groundwater flows from the mountains under the complex daily, and about 400 tons of it penetrates the basement walls of the buildings housing reactors 1 to 4 of the six-reactor plant, thus mixing with the highly radioactive coolant water leaking from the containment vessels.
The remaining 600 or so tons apparently flows to the sea and Tepco suspects about half of it gets contaminated somewhere else under the plant.
But the exact paths the groundwater takes have yet to be pinpointed.
Tepco compiled a groundwater flow simulation for an Aug. 12 meeting with experts from the Nuclear Regulation Authority, but the utility said the simulation was inaccurate.
The east side of the reactor buildings, in an area close to the sea where land was filled in, appears more vulnerable to liquefaction. Marui said the reclaimed land consists of clay and crushed rocks, through which water can easily pass.
Tepco recently injected liquid glass into the filled land, thereby forming an underground barrier to help prevent groundwater from reaching the sea.
Due to technical reasons, the barrier had to be built 1.8 meters below ground, meaning tainted groundwater can flow to the sea above it. Tepco officials believe that is happening now.
Severity of radioactive water tank leak at Fukushima plant upgraded to Level 3 – The Mainichi, Aug. 21, 2013
The leaky tank is located in a section that includes 25 other tanks. The area had been surrounded by a double-layered barrier made of concrete and sandbags in order to prevent seepage, but it was discovered that the contaminated water had escaped through the sandbags.
The radiation dose inside the barrier was measured at 100 millisieverts per hour, or 100 times greater than the average yearly exposure for the general population. A high level of radiation was also detected outside the sandbag barrier, at more than 90 millisieverts per hour.
The level of radioactive substances inside a drainage canal that connects directly to the ocean, some 20 meters away from the tank, was found to be a low 130 becquerels per liter, however – leading TEPCO to comment that “no spillage into the ocean has been detected so far.”
TEPCO is now working to determine the exact locations of the leaks.
Radioactive Leaks in Japan Prompt Call for Overseas Help – Bloomberg Businessweek, Aug. 21, 2013
The crippled nuclear plant at Fukushima is losing its two-year battle to contain radioactive water leaks and its owner emphasized for the first time it needs overseas expertise to help contain the disaster.
The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said they are prepared to help.
At least one commissioner at Japan’s nuclear regulator questioned the accuracy of data being released by Tepco and whether the incident had been fully reported. The leak, along with a separate spill of 300 tons of radioactive water a day into the Pacific Ocean, is raising doubts about the utility’s ability to handle the 40-year task to decommission the nuclear site.
Fukushima leak erodes confidence in nuclear power – The Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 21, 2013
What happened at Fukushima is a rare occurrence, many in the industry stress, and nuclear remains one of the safest and most reliable ways to generate electricity. Still, the political fallout from Fukushima – and the fumbling recovery in its wake – has delivered another blow to a nuclear industry that a few years ago seemed to have finally shaken the stigma of the Three Mile Island disaster.
“The [Fukushima] remediation work (and the daily news drip) has likely had a negative impact on nuclear perception in the US, but much less than the accident itself,” Edward Kee, vice president of NERA Economic Consulting, wrote in an e-mail. “The nuclear industry is good at understanding all accidents and incidents (even minor things that do not make the news) and learning from them to prevent similar things from happening in the future.”
The US has had its own post-Fukushima nuclear curtailment, but that might be more the result of market forces rather than fear of a meltdown. Subsidies for wind and solar and cheap, abundant natural gas have made it difficult for nuclear to compete in electricity markets. Since October 2012, electric power companies have announced the retirement of four nuclear reactors at three power plants in the US. About 20 percent of electricity in the US comes from nuclear.
Nuclear meltdown’s effect on B.C. fish unclear – Times Colonist, Aug. 21, 2013
Karla Robison, Ucluelet’s manager of environmental and emergency services, wants Ucluelet council to ask senior levels of government to support a study of chemicals in fish.
“We could work with local folks who are out fishing to get tissue samples and make sure there are no problems with the fish,” said Robison, who has led much of the on-the-ground response to earthquake debris arriving on the Island. “It’s a very, very important issue and quite frightening,” she said.
“Given the thousands of kilometres between Japan and Canada’s west coast, any radioactive material that might have been carried eastward via wind currents was dispersed and diluted over the ocean long before it reached Canada,” Health Canada said.
Nikolaus Gantner, an ecotoxicologist affiliated with Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., said the challenge is to discover how much radiation is accumulating in migratory or long-lived fish, such as halibut, salmon and tuna.
“There are simply not enough measurements being done in water and biota on this side of the Pacific Ocean,” he said. LINK
Viewing Fukushima in the cold light of Chernobyl – PhysOrg, Aug. 21, 2013
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster spread significant radioactive contamination over more than 3500 square miles of the Japanese mainland in the spring of 2011. Now several recently published studies of Chernobyl, directed by Timothy Mousseau of the University of South Carolina and Anders Møller of the Université Paris-Sud, are bringing a new focus on just how extensive the long-term effects on Japanese wildlife might be.
Their work underscores the idea that, in the wake of the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986, there have been many lost opportunities to better understand the effects of radiation on life, particularly in nature rather than the laboratory. The researchers fear that the history of lost opportunities is largely being replayed in Fukushima.
Mousseau and Møller have with their collaborators just published three studies detailing the effects of ionizing radiation on pine trees and birds in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. “When you look for these effects, you find them,” said Mousseau, a biologist in USC’s College of Arts and Sciences.
In the journal Mutation Research, they showed that birds in Chernobyl had high frequencies of albino feathering and tumors. In Plos One, they demonstrated that birds there had significant rates of cataracts, which likely impacted their fitness in the wild. And in the journal Trees, they showed that tree growth was suppressed by radiation near Chernobyl, particularly in smaller trees, even decades after the original accident.
Thyroid cancer found in 18 Fukushima children – NHK WORLD English, Aug. 21, 2013 (VIDEO)
Investigators Looking Into Abnormal Radiological Reading At Hanford – Oregon Public Broadcasting, Aug. 22, 2013
Crews were transferring waste at a tank inside what’s known as the C-Farm. That’s about a 9-acre grouping of underground tanks in central Hanford. They hold millions of gallons of radioactive sludge. Operators noticed a big difference in their radiological readings and proceeded to evacuate the entire farm area. Gates were closed to most workers and areas of Hanford were under a “take-cover” status. Special crews surveyed the areas outside of the C-Farm, then got closer to the area where work was being done.
Now, crews have given the all clear for most of the farm, but are working on narrowing down where the high reading came from.
Radiation ‘hotspots’ found in Fukushima tanks – The Raw Story, Aug. 22, 2013
“We have confirmed two spots where radiation doses are high” near two other tanks, a company statement said.
But the levels of water in these two tanks have not changed since they were pressed into service to store contaminated water and the ground around them was dry, it added.
The inspections were prompted by the discovery of a leak that the company said may have carried radioactive materials out to sea, with the country’s nuclear watchdog voicing concerns that there could be similar leaks from other containers.
On Wednesday, nuclear regulators said the leak represented a level-three “serious incident” on the UN’s seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), raising the alert from level one, an “anomaly”.
TEPCO in July admitted for the first time that radioactive groundwater had been leaking outside the plant.
New High-radiation Spots Found at Quake-hit Fukushima Plant – Scientific American, Aug. 22, 2013
In an inspection carried out following the revelation of the leakage, high radiation readings – 100 millisieverts per hour and 70 millisieverts per hour – were recorded at the bottom of two tanks in a different part of the plant, Tepco said.
Although no puddles were found nearby and there were no noticeable changes in water levels in the tanks, the possibility of stored water having leaked out cannot be ruled out, a Tokyo Electric spokesman said.
The confirmed leakage prompted Japan’s nuclear watchdog to say it feared the disaster was “in some respect” beyond Tepco’s ability to cope.
Fukushima checking 300 more tanks for toxic leaks – Global Post, Aug. 22, 2013
TEPCO has said puddles of water near the tank were so toxic that anyone exposed to them would receive the same amount of radiation in an hour that a nuclear plant worker in Japan is allowed to receive in five years.
The utility did not have a water-level gauge on the 1,000-tonne tank, which experts say would have made it a lot more difficult to detect the problem.
Thursday’s safety checks on 300 tanks came after Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) chairman Shunichi Tanaka on Wednesday voiced concern that there could be similar leaks from other containers.
“We must carefully deal with the problem on the assumption that if one tank springs a leak the same thing can happen at other tanks,” he said.
The News From Fukushima Just Gets Worse, and the Japanese Public Wants Answers – TIME, Aug. 22, 2013
Earlier this month, at a symposium on the Fukushima nuclear disaster held at the Tokyo International Forum, an unlikely cast gathered to vent fears now gaining traction in Japan. The panel included a bank president, investigative journalist, world-renowned symphony conductor, teenage pop star and the mayor of a radioactive ghost town. For all their obvious differences, this motley crew agreed on one thing: that the damage being caused by the crippled No. 1 nuclear plant is far worse than government officials cared to acknowledge. “It’s time we faced the danger, ” said Takashi Hirose, a writer shocked by the under-reported radiation levels he found on recent trip into the evacuation zone. “So many terrible things are not being reported in the news.”
Fukushima Clouds Abe’s Bid to Start Nukes for Recovery: Economy – Bloomberg, Aug. 22, 2013
As Abe prepares for a trip tomorrow to the Middle East where he will promote sales of nuclear technology, the atomic industry at home is reeling. Japan’s nuclear regulator said this week that a new radioactive water leak was the most serious incident at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant since the March 2011 accident that devastated the site.
The latest setback may stoke public anger over Fukushima, undermining Abe’s efforts to restart some of Japan’s 48 idled atomic plants and boost nuclear exports – elements of his plan to drive an economic revival. Abe, who must decide whether to proceed with a sales-tax increase, is counting on re-opening the installations to help reduce energy imports and fuel growth in consumer confidence and corporate earnings.
Apart from backing a return to nuclear power, Abe has made exporting nuclear technology a component of his economic plan and has been a pitch man for companies such as Toshiba Corp. (6502) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (7011) On his Aug. 24–29 trip to four Middle East nations, Abe will offer “cooperation in the nuclear safety field” in Kuwait and Qatar, according to a briefing paper on the tour.
Trade Minister Toshimitsu Motegi agreed to promote nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia on a visit in February, while Japan previously signed a memorandum of nuclear development with Kuwait. Abe and French President Francois Hollande agreed to deepen cooperation on reactor exports in June.
The Proceedings of the Twelfth Prefectural Oversight Committee Meeting for Fukushima Health Management Survey were released on August 20, 2013. HERE is the translation of the thyroid ultrasound examination.
Radioactive groundwater at Fukushima nears Pacific – AP, The Big Story, Aug. 23, 2013
The looming crisis is potentially far greater than the discovery earlier this week of a leak from a tank that stores contaminated water used to cool the reactor cores. That 300-ton (80,000-gallon) leak is the fifth and most serious from a tank since the March 2011 disaster, when three of the plant’s reactors melted down after a huge earthquake and tsunami knocked out the plant’s power and cooling functions.
But experts believe the underground seepage from the reactor and turbine building area is much bigger and possibly more radioactive, confronting the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., with an invisible, chronic problem and few viable solutions. Many also believe it is another example of how TEPCO has repeatedly failed to acknowledge problems that it could almost certainly have foreseen — and taken action to mitigate before they got out of control.
It remains unclear what the impact of the contamination on the environment will be because the radioactivity will be diluted as it spreads farther into the sea. Most fishing in the area is already banned, but fishermen in nearby Iwaki City had been hoping to resume test catches next month following favorable sampling results. Those plans have been scrapped after news of the latest tank leak.
“Nobody knows when this is going to end,” said Masakazu Yabuki, a veteran fisherman in Iwaki, just south of the plant, where scientists say contaminants are carried by the current. “We’ve suspected (leaks into the ocean) from the beginning. … TEPCO is making it very difficult for us to trust them.”
Fukushima inspectors “careless”, Japan agency says, as nuclear crisis grows – Reuters, Aug. 23, 2013
The operator of Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant was careless in monitoring tanks storing dangerously radioactive water, the nuclear regulator said on Friday, the latest development in a crisis no one seems to know how to contain.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. also failed to keep records of inspections of the tanks, Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa told reporters after a visit to the nearby Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Despite Fukushima, IAEA sees global progress on nuclear safety – Reuters, Aug. 23, 2013
In a report prepared for its annual member state gathering, the International Atomic Energy Agency said nearly all countries with nuclear plants had carried out safety “stress tests” to assess their ability to withstand so-called extreme events.
The U.N. agency’s report, evaluating the implementation of an IAEA nuclear safety action plan adopted by the General Conference in 2011 to help prevent any repeat of the Fukushima disaster, said progress had been made worldwide in key areas.
These included emergency preparedness, assessments of safety vulnerabilities of nuclear plants, and the protection of people and the environment from radiation.
“Since September 2012 … considerable progress has been made worldwide in strengthening nuclear safety through the implementation of the action plan and of national action plans in member states,” the report said.
The Fukushima nuclear complex is still not under control – Global Post, Aug. 23, 2013
News of the leak was met with a shrug in Japan, where an estimated 94 percent of the population said it believes the disaster has not been resolved, according to a March survey by Hirotada Hirose of Tokyo Woman’s University.
Thursday news bulletins on the national Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) prioritized New York Yankee’s baseball player Ichiro Suzuki’s 4,000th hit over updates from the plant. Some private TV stations failed to report any update from Fukushima at all.
Tepco testing tainted earth at No. 1 plant: Utility begins digging ground to assess extent of contamination – The Japan Times, Aug. 23, 2013
The utility will dig areas measuring 12 sq. meters in total to a depth of 40 to 50 cm where pools of leaked radioactive water formed, and then measure levels to determine how far the contamination has spread and how much soil needs to be removed.
Tepco has said puddles of water near the leaking tank were so toxic that anyone exposed to them would receive the same amount of radiation in an hour that a nuclear plant worker in Japan is allowed to receive in five years — 100 millisieverts.
Abe, Kan among 1,000 at memorial service for former chief of Fukushima plant – Japan Today, Aug, 24, 2013
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and former Prime Minister Naoto Kan were among 1,000 people who attended a memorial service in Tokyo Friday for Masao Yoshida, the man who led the life-risking battle at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant when it was spiraling into meltdowns.
Yoshida died of cancer of the esophagus on July 9 at the age of 58. He led efforts to stabilize the stricken nuclear power plant after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami knocking out its power and cooling systems, causing triple meltdowns and massive radiation leaks.
After the service, Tokyo Electric Power Co President Naomi Hirose praised Yoshida for his efforts on the front line during the crisis and said all employees of TEPCO must do what Yoshida would have done to cope with the ongoing crisis, NHK reported.
Yoshida, an outspoken man, wasn’t afraid of talking back to higher-ups, but he was also known as a caring figure to his workers.
Patrick J. Kiger at National Geographic News has an excellent summary of the current situation at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The plant continues to leak radioactive material into the sea, though at a rate much lower than the massive release that happened at the time of the accident. Strontium-90 (Half-life 28.79 years) has increased in proportion over various Cesium isotopes. This is a concern because while Cesium has the potential to enter the food supply in fish that pick it up, Strontium enters the food supply in a different way. In theory Cesium enters tissues and leaves tissues, and doesn’t accumulate over time. (I quickly add that there is evidence of Cesium accumulation in the fish food chain, so that may not be entirely true; certainly, tough, Cesium does not accumulate in large amounts). Strontium, on the other hand, substitutes for minerals in bone, and thus accumulated as a fish ages. Taking fish from contaminated waters for human consumption has mostly been banned since the accident (there are a few species of marine organism that have stopped showing detectable levels of radioactive isotopes, so they are now being caught).
The overall expected health risks of the Fukushima disaster overall and continued health risks because of the ongoing leakage are hard to estimate. There is almost certainly an elevated cancer risk for people living in the area, though the extent of this is unknown. Concerns that we see around the Internet that dangerous levels of radiation are reaching the US are incorrect.
Having said that, I think people often evaluate the significance of the Fukushima disaster incorrectly, for political reasons. Those who want to claim that nuclear power (including existing old-generation nuclear plants) is just honkey-dory seem to do so by feeding off of anti-nuke misconceptions and irrational fears about radiation. Yes, people do get it wrong; the average person has no clue what risks radioactive materials or radiation pose. For this reason, it is easy to creates straw men and then disprove them. The fact that the region around Fukushima is not littered with skeletons of people who were zapped into oblivion by the Fukushima multiple meltdowns, or that all babies in Japan are born with only one head and ten fingers, does not mean that nothing happened there. The fact is that you can’t go near this power plant without taking a serious health risk, and there is a moderate but real health risk because of the prior large scale dispersal of radioactive material and the ongoing lower level but still important outpouring (literally) of radioisotopes.
If we were to propose the construction of 22 nuclear power plants and noted that over a 30 year period one of them would suffer multiple meltdowns, spew enormous amounts of nuclear icky stuff into the air and sea, continued to spread contaminated water into the sea and groundwater for years after at a lower rate, create a very expensive problem that would last for decades and create a deadly no-entry zone filled with millions and millions of gallons of radioactive water and piles of nuclear material in the disabled reactors and spent fuel pools that could not be cleaned up for decades in a zone susceptible to serious earthquakes and tsunamis … the designers of that system might well be asked to go back to the drawing board or seek other alternatives. (Japan has about 22 plants operated over about 30 years, give or take.)
In fact, they were. They were asked to not do what they did, but those who opposed nuclear plants in Japan. The specific reasoning of the anti-nuclear activists and others may have included faulty logic and bad information about nuclear power, but on the list of potential problems was the possibility that what actually happened would happen. They were right. And they were not “stopped clock” right. They were right because they saw a real danger that really existed.
We probably have to build new nuclear power plants. Burning fossil fuels at the rate we are burning them will cause disasters that will make us forget bout our nuclear woes. But it is not true that the nuclear power industry is ready to step in and build significantly safer plants now, and it is not true that “alternative” (a term we should stop using!) energy solutions such as geothermal, solar, wind, and so on deployed on a smart grid with significant enhancements of efficiency at both production and use ends of the grid comprises a secondary solution.
On March 11th, 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant complex suffered damage from an earthquake and ensuing tsunami that caused multiple nuclear reactor core meltdowns and melt-throughs, explosions, and major releases of radioactive material into the air and the sea. In addition to the reactor meltdowns and melt-throughs spent fuel storage tanks were also damaged and probably contributed to the release. It took about a year for the plant to reach a condition that was stable enough that we stopped checking it every day to see if new bad things were happening. Heroic efforts were implemented by the utility and the workers, but in the end, very little that was done aside from the initial flooding of the reactors with sea water really had much effect. Basically, the plant just cooled down and stopped being as dangerous because the nuclear material in the plant escaped into the environment or just settled down to a less reactive level over time.
A handful of news items have come up recently mainly pertaining to contamination and other issues, so we thought an update was in order.
Almost exactly one year ago, a very large double strength tsunami struck the Pacific Coast of Japan and washed a huge amount of stuff out into the sea. The oceanic born debris of terrestrial origin looked in places like this:
Subsequently attempts were made to model the movement of the debris in the Pacific. Some of the debris would likely end up on the coast of the US, so some of the models asked that question: When can Tsunami Salad start to wash up on the beaches of California, Oregon and Washington? I’m sure that everyone who’s thought about this for even a few seconds realizes that when this happens, it will not look like the picture shown above. It might be just the occasional floating bit of plasticky stuff used to make cars or boats or beach-side furniture, bits and pieces of household debris, and the occasionally recognizable Hello Kitty item. Furthermore, these items will be few and far between and by this time, likely, rather sun baked. Continue reading Where is the debris from the Japanse Tsunami?→
There is still a great deal of uncertainty about where the melted-down fuel at Fukushima I’s reactors is resting. TEPCO and various NPA’s have insisted all along that they know where it is, and everything is under control. The most recent information from TEPCO is that the fuel is contained in the containment vessel, but they won’t be able to confirm that for ten years when it cools down enough to go have a look. Recent efforts to peek inside the rubble have been hampered. One attempt resulted in very blurry photographs … apparently the high levels of radiation mess up the camera. An interesting development is afoot: Scientists at Nagoya have a muon camera! Muons are part of the background radiation stuff that is wafting through us and all our matter at a low level all the time. Even though muons can pass through most matter without even noticing it, the densest of matter does absorb some of them. The Nagoya scientist have been using a “muon camera” to photograph the insides of volcanoes. You set up the film, filter out other background radiation, and wait a very long time (weeks, months, etc.) and the muons eventually leave an image. This could be used to detect the very dense nuclear fuel at Fukushima. It may not work because of the high levels of radiation at the crippled plant, but it is probably worth a try. TEPCO so far seems to be ignoring the offer. We have come to the point where we can assume that if a method of analysis could show that things are worse off than TEPCO’s rose-colored-glasses version that they will resist using that method, so don’t expect the muon camera to be installed any time soon, or ever. Unless, of course, some outside agency simply comes in and takes over.
Speaking of lies and deceit, we also learned of a worst-case scenario report produced after the meltdown that indicated the distinct possibility of large amounts of radiation being spewed over a large area that would have actually required a voluntary evacuation of … wait for it …. Tokyo. This was a worst-case scenario, and that did not happen, but it was considered plausible. The disturbing part of this is that a small number of officials got hold of it and decided it was too scary to tell anyone about, so it was suppressed. Just like in all those overdone highly implausible science fiction movies.
Water and temperature levels at Fukushima I are still varying in ways that are not understood and that should cause concern.
Thousands of tons of crushed stone was mined from near the Fukushima plant after the meltdowns but before anyone thought to restrict the use of radioactive rock from the area, and has been used to build about 60 homes; another several dozen homes are about to be built with the same stone. Also, radioactive gravel has been used to build walls at an Elementary school and in roads and pathways.
In Nihonmatsu, children wearing dosimeters were found to have been exposed to alarmingly high levels of radiation. When the source of this radiation was discovered, it turned out to be from concrete made with this radioactive gravel. The levels of radiation inside the homes made from this concrete was higher than the radiation levels outside the home. Of the families that had moved into the apartments, many had moved from the Fukushima evacuation zone.
The party line of NPA’s regarding Chernobyl is that nothing really bad happened there despite rumors to the contrary. Now we hare hearing that noting really bad happened at Fukushima, but the comparison is being made to Chernobyl … Everything is fine at Fukushima because unlike Chernobyl, where “…people were dying from huge, high exposures, some of the workers were dying very soon…” nothing like that is happening in Japan. This would be funny if it wasn’t so demented.
Meanwhile, at Fukushima, where nothing has gone wrong and everything is fine, researchers have found that bird populations are dwindling as a result of radioactive fallout.
In the first major study of the impact of the world’s worst nuclear crisis in 25 years, the researchers, from Japan, the US and Denmark, said their analysis of 14 species of bird common to Fukushima and Chernobyl, the Ukrainian city which suffered a similar nuclear meltdown, showed the effect on abundance is worse in the Japanese disaster zone.
One of the effects of increased ambient radiation is reduction in brain size in birds, and it can be safely guessed that this may happen in humans as well. More information about this is here.
A study of mother’s milk at Fukushima is starting, and there is now concern over locust consumption … the edible insects may be sufficiently radioactive that they should be avoided, which is a bummer, because they are rather tasty.
The Japanese have developed a way to plow their fields so that the surface radiation readings are reduced. The radioactive stuff is plowed deeper where it will not be read by surface sensors. We assume plants will still be able to absorb the radioactive elements via their roots. A recent study documented high levels of radiation in earthworm castings in the Fukushima area. We wonder if it is easier to catch radioactive fish with radioactive worms? One study has also shown that the fact that a large percentage of the radioactive fallout from Fukushima fell into the sea, things are better than they otherwise might be. On land. Of course, a month after the multiple meltdown, it is now known that discharge at the plant (into the ocean) had 45,000,000 times the amount of radioactive Cesium-137 than it did before the multiple meltdown. This is not of great immediate concern because the ocean is big and the amount of radiation is small enough to be quickly dispersed, but there is concern that over subsequent months and years persistent radioactive material will be concentrated in fish.
Here’s a very very interesting piece by Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen about Reactor 1. We’ll call this the Brunswick Effect:
The significance of this is that a post-Fukushima “fix” on this design of reactor will not be effective. The nuclear power industry appears to be about to blow it. Again. Literally.
Speaking of which, we note that one important source of power at Fukushima, that might have allowed continued collection of data during the crisis, had been turned off and left off months before the earthquake, by mistake. The reason that this is important is because it is a just discovered, uncontrolled goof with consequences (GWC) that is undoubtedly NOT being incorporated into the much touted “post-Fukushima” considerations in new plant design and operation procedure. The nuclear power industry assures us that they’ve learned everything they can from Fukushima and has incorporated all the appropriate changes in future new construction, design, ongoing procedure and licensing. But they have not considered Arnie’s elastic bolts or random GWS’s such as this one.
Also from Fairwinds, something on BEIR and health risks to children.
Oh, and remember “Fukushima II” (the other Fukushima plant)? “One Japanese expert, Hiromitsu Ino, said a Containment Vessel at Fukushima II (Daini) is broken, and they are trying to repair it. It was probably caused by the earthquake, not tsunami.”
All this and more are documented below in Ana’s Feed:
In the beginning of the Fukushima Nuclear Crisis, in the hours and days after the earthquake and tsunami struck, nuclear power experts assured us that no matter how bad it seemed, nuclear material would stay in the reactors. It was unlikely that the reactors would melt down, and if they did melt down a little, that would be OK because the melted down stuff would stay within the reactor vessels. No problem. What actually happened, however, is that the nuclear material in three of the reactors totally melted down, and then melted through in perhaps two or three of the reactors, but at least, probably, did not reach “China Syndrome” levels of out-of-control.